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Posts Tagged ‘pocket philosopher’

 
|| January 24, 2013 || 11:43 pm || Comments (13) ||

In the last several months, while hysterical things were happening to our finances, I found myself fantasizing about money over and over.

It’s not like you think. What I found myself fantasizing about was giving away money to people who need it. Just, you know, wandering up to someone on the street or in the Wal-Mart parking lot and saying, “Here. This is one-hundred dollars. You’re supposed to have it.” and shoving the money onto their person before they had time to react; I would walk away before they got their wits about them and began doing something foolish like asking questions or trying to give it back.

I want to give something to someone, I don’t want them to owe me anything, I want to facilitate a blessing when the Spirit moves me. That’s right, I capitalized Spirit. My doing so probably made you squirm in your seat, right?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Six weeks ago we are lolling on the couch together, hanging out, when I tell my husband that this is my fantasy of late.

“Can you imagine,” I say, “Can you just imagine how that would feel, to help enable some financial freedom in someone’s life?

“Just walk around, listening for God, waiting to hear That one, yes, her over there and moving into the gap at the necessary moment.” I say it with excitement and surety.

“I’m going to do this one day.”

Maxim doesn’t flinch when I tell him this, doesn’t bat an eye. This is his endorsement. This is his statement of faith in my mission or me or that the universe is wobbling in just the exact right way. Maybe all three. He is sometimes enigmatic like that, enigmatic in a comfortable way.

Comfortably enigmatic sound like some sort of fictional state, doesn’t it?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I keep watch on the walls, Maxim keeps watch at the gate. This is good in a friendship. This is completely stellar in a marriage. Keeping watch on the walls and at the gate isn’t always a defensive thing. The Watcher on the Wall sees the first dangers, but that vantage point offers the first advantages, as well. The Watcher at the Gate might take a beating holding back the unwelcome, but also gets to fling wide those gates to receive visitors or facilitate an adventure.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This past two years has consisted of a bunch of crazy, seemingly-mismatched surges forward. Rocking along and living life and then PUSH and trying to get bearings and oh look this way is up and I have my legs under me and there goes three feet behind me, ten feet, eighteen and PUSH oh God let’s find up again, again, again and again.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

A couple-three weeks ago opportunity came knocking. Like, right on my forehead. I embraced it and probably even dry-humped it a little. I wanted take things to third base with opportunity, but it didn’t have a condom and momma dint raise no fool, child.

With opportunity comes excited planning. Opportunity gets your blood up and working.

About a week later Maxim’s boss showed up at our house and delivered the news right there in our dining room.* There would not be a company soon, because the company would fold in on itself and well, here we are. Let’s pedal as fast as we can over the next few weeks and see what happens.

Opportunity just turned into Just Enough.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Most years Maxim goes to NAMM around this time. The trip was already booked, and so was our room in Birmingham so last week found us down in the city burning through the couple of remaining restaurant cards from our Christmas haul. We went for Italian that evening. A man kept catching my eye, even as we were waiting for a table.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

There seems to be a prevailing practice lately wherein individuals select a word at the beginning of the year to define or guide or gently suggest to the year that it might want to let this word represent it, pretty please, maybe? I have seen genuine anguish slathered across various channels of social media because HOLY FUCK GUYS WHAT IF I BOMB THIS WHOLE DEFINING-YEAR WORD AND MY YEAR IS TOTALLY SO TOTALLY BONED BECAUSE OF IT.

I don’t mean this as snotty, but it’s going to come across that way and so be it: I don’t really have any understanding of this practice, because the words have always tended to pick me. They snuck up and attached themselves to me and by the time I figured out what the the hell was going on it was just a relief to recognize what was up on and go all, “Oh! This year’s theme is ___________.” Most of them have been really good ones, too, the words. Hell, the last decade alone has yielded up kamikaze and warrior and song and spirited. There have been rougher ones like obedience and desire, but even those had benefit, once the callouses softened back up and some of the lumps went down.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Before we left the house, I spied the grocery money Maxim had handed me earlier. I’d only half paid attention to it at the time, setting it on the taller of our two dressers as he and I talked.

For the third time that evening, I was moved to put it in my wallet. Half-exasperated, I pulled it down and headed out the door to the car where my husband was waiting for me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The man was small, his shirt was immaculate, and everything he did was crisp, efficient, quick. He did not stop moving and he didn’t piddle-ass around. Back and back and back my eyes went to him. I’ve known this sensation before. It’s the one that says I have something to do and I have to do it or it’s gonna bug me so bad that I’d regret not doing it. Which, when written down that way, looks sort of insane and compulsive, doesn’t it?

You’re just gonna have to take my word on this one, the word that I know the difference between mental illness and letting yourself help along something that you don’t have a great deal of understanding about. The line dividing the two, I’m sure, is pretty thin and open to a degree of interpretation on a case by case basis. Or maybe most people just waver oh-so-slightly back and forth over it, in microscopic drunken swoops.

This time was different, too. It was just slightly different.

“Maxim,” I finally said, “Do you have anything on you to write on? I don’t want to write on a napkin.”

He didn’t. He is no longer perplexed by these requests, if he ever was. I went in search of paper. I came back to the table and pulled my fancy pen from my wallet. I wrote down the words that were yelling to be let out and then I pulled out one-third of the grocery money –a twenty-dollar bill– and folded it up in that piece of paper covered in excited, inky loops.

I hunted up the manager.

“Now this won’t make much sense,” I said. I felt awkward. I didn’t care. I tried to hammer the words around the concept so he could at least get a feel for the shape of it. I said three sentences containing slippery words like ‘God’ and ‘anonymous’ and ‘led.’ He let me off the hook, “I go to Highlands church. I get what you’re doing. I understand.” And just like that I was thrilled to realize that it had started, this business of blessing strangers with cash, and that I had to give some twenties away so I could work my way up to hundreds.

Just like so many things in my life, it started before I knew it was time, before I knew I was ready.

I feel crazy-awkward telling you this story, because it could read as if self-aggrandizement is at play here. It’s earnestly not, though. It’s the biggest wash of humility when stuff like this occurs, because I don’t want to interlope on someone’s blessing by basking in it. There are certain profundities that I’ve gotten to witness that I had no claims to but I’ll be damned if they didn’t wash into me, too, just because I had the fortune of standing nearby.

It makes me feel like a Cosmic circus geek. Here, let me contort for you, it’ll be neat!

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My word for this year is soul, only like this: Soul.

Yeah, this year’s about Soul for me, about putting a little more English on everything I do. It’s about letting the roots go deep because the soil is finally rich enough to sustain them.

The roots go deeper, the fruit goes sweeter, the bugs are still bugs but they have better table manners.

Soul is about caring so deeply for the right things that the wrong ones can’t even catch your eye.

Soul is about a hip shake and a lip turned up in pleasure and a good ole impolite wail cooking itself up right there underneath those collarbones.

Soul is knowing where and when to assign the wail.

Soul tells you important things like,
You have to begin. You have to Begin. YOU HAVE TO BEGIN.

*(my dining room needs some good news –is a little overdue for some, in fact– so if you should see some, sneak it over in a casserole dish)

 
|| May 4, 2012 || 4:19 am || Comments (6) ||

Hello there, you—

So I set a fire.

That’s what you do in middle Missouri, it seems. You make a careful pile somewhere out in the back forty (‘back forty’ in this instance means ‘the pavers stacked together with military exactitude until a burn ring was formed there’) and when you can stand it no longer, you burn that pile. You’re supposed to have a burn permit. That’s what my father told me the last time I was here, anyway.

And because there was a sizable pile of thick honeysuckle vines, newspaper, and potentially-funky boxes (potentially funky because I’d gotten them out of a man’s warehouse and said warehouse was neither clean nor orderly nor without pests-slash-vermin), because I have a healthy sense of don’t-give-a-fuck, I did it without an official burn permit*. Probably it had something to do with the full moon, as well, don’t you think? A full moon and some sketchy, shifty-looking sort of clouds beg a fire.

See, one thing I’ve always been good at is arranging a pile of things so that they are combustion-friendly. I’ve never had any trouble, overmuch, getting a blaze to form up where there was none before.  I can make the kind of fire that melts your face if you dare turn toward it and I can make the kind of fire that you can cook a meal by and I can make the kind of fire that burns low and steady and, for the most part, is still there waiting to be stirred up the next morning when you rise, head beer-fuzzy and mouth dull with the aftertaste of marshmallows blazed to a non-sticky crisp over and over again.

I took myself and my black Bic up to the deck and leaned across the railing as the thing caught good, flames pushing back night, spinning and falling and tumbling into and over themselves. Flames! You are so rowdy! How can man not love you, you remarkable things? Fire, you are triumph itself!

The smoke was dense and sweet, and because I sometimes have an overactive imagination I wondered if some great mystery would be revealed to me if I stood in the middle of it as it billowed past.

Honeysuckle smoke is a new one on me, let me tell you. It was a happy accident borne of my father’s diligence. Because of the radiation he is taking into his brain and his chest, he is limited in what his body will allow him to do anymore. Even when the cancer had him near-dead, he was still able to do just about damn near anything he wanted. It infuriates him in his low, quiet way that the thing that is making him well (supposedly. all it’s really doing is prolonging his life, and nobody has any illusions about this bit of business, even though we don’t talk about it with him) is stripping him of his no-holds-barred go at life. He tries to do physically demanding things and, aggravated, resigns himself to the sofa with his Kindle, reading book after book set in Africa. When he tires even of reading he boots up his iPad and watches videos of African men dancing, shouting, celebrating, fierce. He is quiet and reverent as he does so.

I have no earthly idea why, in his cancer-soaked retirement, Africa calls to him, but it does. I hope he will treat himself and go there when he gets his strength back from the chemo and the radiation and the forced-march cadence of Being A Cancer Patient.

So yeah, diligence: He can only do one or two things on the days that he can can stay vertical for very long, and those things are usually very manly things like scrambling around a roof or hauling brick. He won’t quit and I don’t tell him to.

His energy was sorely lacking last week and so he attacked the overgrown honeysuckle ferociously and without prejudice. Out of his frustration, then, grew my full-moon discovery that a honeysuckle fire gives off a gently sweet smoke.  It is so strange, sometimes, how we make our way toward knowledge.

I do part of my work on the internets. The internets are a swamp of distraction (maybe you know this already). HOWEVER! This evening I found myself watching a video wherein Ms. Natalie Portman and Mr. Johnny Depp were signing –yes, S-I-G-N-ing, not S-I-N-G-ing—along to a song by one Sir Paul McCartney, the Most Ancient High Beatleperson. I was captivated by the complete dissimilarities between said Ms. and Mr., by the swooping and precise way in which she executed the American Sign Language to convey the words to this song versus the very grandiose and looser way that he undertook the same task.

Though I was leaning heavily toward making Ms. Portman my favorite in that instance, it was Mr. Depp (with woefully puffy face and sternly exhausted countenance, poor Johnny) who won out and it was because he made me take more careful notice of the way that the word ‘valentine’ was executed.

And here, now, three hours past the sweetness of honeysuckle smoke , as I pen this in order to get it in the post in a handful of hours, I find it intensely interesting to note that the sign for ‘valentine’ looks for all the world as if a bomb were being detonated just before tracing the heart.

Over and over my heart has been detonated. I guess this is how I’d assure a complete stranger such as yourself that I’ve had a good life thus far, an intensely satisfying life. In matters of faith, of art, of love, of politics, of travel and taking meals and having conversations, my heart has been detonated. Some explosions have been messier than others, of course.

But you know that: You have a heart, too.

I hope this finds you well, warm, and happy.

Blessings,
Jett

*oooh, Rebel Rebel, we’re afraid-a yoooou, making a FIRE in a RING after a two-day RAIN. Risk taker!

pee ess….not long ago I found a box full of vintage writing papers for a dollar. A DOLLAR! Such a great find.

 
|| January 29, 2012 || 1:57 am || Comments (10) ||

So I worked at this plant where I was a supervisor on night shift. As a completely unrelated (and maybe worthless, I’ll leave that to you to decide) aside, I’d like to tell you that –despite aggressive insomnia that started taking over my sleep when I was in the neighborhood of eight or nine– ten months of working the night shift aged me ten years. At least, that’s what it felt like when I slung my safety gear over my shoulder and walked out of that joint for the last time.

Clock in at eleven, clock out at seven. There were three-hundred and fifty personnel on that shift, busted up into different sections, each section with a supervisor. A couple of the more sizable sections had three to four line supervisors, with crews of anywhere from seven to fifteen people for whom they were responsible. Out of those three-fifty, there were approximately eight women. Only one was a section super. Another was a line super. The latter was me.

The plant floor was always loud. It wasn’t only loud; it was dangerous, too, because we were working with caustic chemicals and we climbed things like monkeys and we teetered on the edges of slick, sharp inclines manhandling equipment that was half our bodyweights or more, high up in the air over solid concrete floors. There was machinery everywhere to bounce off of on your way down, if the thought of cracking your melon on some ‘crete wasn’t enough to keep you cautious.

I had a crew of twelve men. There used to be one woman on it, a woman who had been there for years and never been promoted because, well, she wasn’t. She was diminutive and appalling, because she was yippy like a chihuahua and always aggressively demanding respect out of one side of her mouth but then giving blowjobs in the parking lot out of the other. The kind of girl who, for instance, wanted to wrestle like a man but when pinned would intone in babyvoice, “Let me up, don’t hurt me, ’cause I’m just leeeedle!” Females of the world who are like this: Just give us all one big fucking break, would you? Everybody –male and female alike– pretty much wants you to fall in a ditch and stay there.

(I mean, I don’t give a shit if your aim is to have every dick within ten feet of you in your mouth at one time or the other, but don’t go acting like you’re surprised when none of the males those penises are attached to come to you for your philosophical take on matters. There is slut-shaming and there is poor judgment and we’re all adults here and can tell the difference, right?)

So Yippy was on my crew and her first order of business was to be passive-aggressive with me and Give Me Ten Kinds of Shit because I had all my teeth and two brain cells to rub together and oh yeah, tits. Good-looking tits. So HEY, I must be COMPETITION rather than her BOSS, right? It didn’t help that she was madly in love with my buddy Polack Dave and was convinced surely to all of high holy heaven that I was going to fuck Dave the very minute that Yippy (who yes, had been Dave’s mistress at one point) and DAVE’S WIFE turned their backs.

See? See what I was dealing with? I played poker with Polack Dave and Polack Dave’s wife and they fed me at least twice a week. Polack Dave and I high-fived one another on the way in the door every night and flipped one another the bird going out of it every morning. Why on Earth would I want to mess that up?

However, Yippy was inconsolable. Yippy did a good job, but Yippy was lippy and disrespectful and I did all the requisite you-try-to-fuck-my-crew-up-I’ma-fuck-your-day-up dancing and write-ups and finally I said, “You know what, Yippy? I AM HAVING YOU TRANSFERRED TO POLACK DAVE’S SUPERVISOR,” and so I did. She was (prematurely) gleeful.  Said super promptly hid her in a broom closet in the nether reaches of the plant and everybody was pretty gahdang happy for a time.

Then there was the night that a very large fellow named Howard stepped to me.

See, I think that maybe some people made the mistake of thinking that I had Yippy transferred because she was a female. Not so. I had Yippy transferred because she was a gigantic asspain and I just wanted to do my fucking job and get the fuck out of there in a timely manner each day. When I eventually got my crew hipped to my way of doing things, we were done with our line by four-thirty and could catch two hours of nap in the breakroom so that we’d be rested up and ready to find beers at one of the only two bars in town open for breakfasty patrons. If you work the night shift, then eight in the morning is your six at night and so by ten ay emm you’re good and shitfaced if that’s your aim. Sure, it’s in a scummy dive of a bar, but who is there to judge you? Nobody, that’s who, because they’re either the folks carpooling miles away from said establishments or the guy at the end of the bar with his asscheeks imprinted into the stool that he hardly ever leaves. He sees four of you and all four iterations have a different name, get it?

Holy cow, I digress. Anyway:  In order for me to do my job and get out in a timely manner, there has to be a cohesive team working toward the same aim and doing so at least quasi-jovially. Whistle while you work, bitches, and you will ride the clock for almost three hours for free and nobody is going to yell at you for doing so because you! are Union! and you! have done a bang-up job! that exceeds the specifications laid out for you in the super-big and ridiculously detailed company manual! This is because my aim is never to do just enough to get by; my aim is to have some stracked-out results whose worth cannot be contested. Selah! Amen! Nap! Then beers and billiards after!

An event whose progressive steps looked something like this, so as to save us some paragraphs and get us to the action right quick,

1) “Howard, man, I don’t like that. Can you do it the other way, please?”
2) “Hey Howard, could you do your job x way because your fancy new y way is slowing the flow and is less efficient overall and since my part of the line depends on your part of the line, you are slowing me down, as well.”
3) “Howard, I don’t know why you are looking me dead in the eye and purposely slowing both our jobs down but that’s not cool and I need you to cut it out.”
4) “Howard. Cut the shit, man.”

occurred over the course of about an hour and a half. By the time I got to “HOWARD. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH,” Howard had decided he’d had enough, too, and closed the twenty or so feet between us with a haste that, had it been shown earlier, would have saved us all the ensuing trouble and dramatics.

Howard got all the fuck up in my face. He had six inches on my five-ten and Lord knows how many pounds on my one-sixty. We were in full hazmat gear, but our helmets were magically, manically gone, flipped from our heads simultaneously and he was breathing down on me, enraged, bearing in, face literally two inches from mine. Howard began yelling in earnest and the whole ‘I’ll be damned if I’ma let this fool back me down’ aspect of my personality rose up in all its glory. I was on my tiptoes, meeting him where he was at and pushing back emotionally every bit as hard as he was shoving me and suddenly there was Polack Dave jumping lines to get to us, there were three members of my crew begging us to stop and more on the way. Everyone was afraid to touch us, everything so electric and precarious. They were attempting to shout sense over the clanging and banging of machinery but the fog of rage –not to mention our mutual shouting– engulfing us obscured them.

Howard got one warning from me to back up, then one more warning from me to back up then he told me to fuck off bitch and I gave over to fury. I raised the high pressure hot-hose that had been dangling limp in my hand (hastily shut off during Howard’s approach), put the metal key to it that dangled from a loop in my coveralls and kicked the hose on as I took a step back. A high-pressure stream of scalding water surged forward from that industrial hose and I nailed that fucker square in the chest with it. There was less than a foot between us. Howard went down.

I got reamed for this. Never once, though, not one single day of my life, have I ever been sorry for that moment. Sometimes your crazy is the only thing that you can rely on. Hatred is shameful. Fury is gorgeous. The two should never marry. If it is devoid of hate, sometimes your fury is a righteous and perfect thing with inexact but fitting results.

 
|| September 16, 2011 || 1:25 am || Comments (17) ||

I am from Break Something: A heart, a bone, a liver
I am from bound and determined and from get the job done and from we don’t do fail
I’m from one hand easy on the wheel and one hand tapping on the outside of the car door to keep time

I am from give me a break and don’t be a chump and brook no bullying

I am from poor white trash and hayseed nobility and every penny earned. I’m from new, sweaty money: Fortunes carefully stacked in the age of transistors only to be toppled over and made into toothpicks for robber barons.

I am from “GOD! GOD BLESS AMERICA! Goodbye Italy. Goodbye Scotland and Ireland and Germany. We are taking you to America in little pieces under petticoats and in the heels of shoes, in songs and saucepots and ceremony!” I am from boys that lost their lives too soon and women who buried them. I am from toting the flag home and remembering, never forgetting, sending another on to do what needs to be done. I am from standing the gap and saluting. I am from Devil Dogs and all those American conflicts as far back as anybody can count. I am from veins that are stripes and eyes that are stars and I would not want it any other way.

I am from whiskeyed kisses and stories told by the creek bank and oh my God there can’t possibly be this much simple happy in all of the Cosmos.

I am from Red Rover, Red Rover, you can come on over but you’re gonna have to break my wrist to to take me back with you.

I am from always knowing God, even before anyone told me about Him. I am from a reverse-apostate mother and a father who unblinkingly disbelieved it. All of it. Then he changed his mind, but I didn’t care anymore. I am from the far, far opposite of not-caring.

(speaking of the far opposite of not-caring:) I am from Mike B. and Keith and Jeff and Tony and Brooks and Jeffrey and Lee and Michael and a better Michael and Joseph and Ron and Stefan and Maynard and Richard and Gabriel. I am not from Tommy, though I once gave him credit for that; it was an illusion.

I am from “Look it up in the dictionary, Elizabeth.” I am from sitting in a movie theater thirteen times to watch Star Wars with the man who gave geekery a good and sexy name. I am from hands on the hips, purse on the lips, ‘why-can’t-you-just’.

I am from mean collarbones and bare knuckles and nearly bleeding to death and self-dressing catastrophic wounds. I am from hospital beds that masquerade as graves and people that miraculously pull themselves out of them.

I am from Memaw putting a hot brick in a towel and nestling my feet against it, four cousins wiggling and giggling beside me underneath quilts that our mommas helped piece. The wind whips icy and howls and I am not from it nor for it nor desirous of it. I am from Memaw’s quilts themselves, gifts from loving and careful hands of women who all both spanked and doted on me when the one or the other was needed.

I am from catch-and-release lightning bugs, from the skins of cicadas.

I am from smiles, from wisecracking, from limb-tangling tacklehugs and peach juice dribbling down, down, down, into fertile and storied soil. I am from the bare toes that wiggle into that soil, and beatific faces that stretch, eyes closed and appreciative, toward the sun.

I am from Love sprouted in a borrowed car and the hallefuckinglujah chorus.

Six days ago you wrote,

“Was it something I said?”

Six minutes ago I wrote,

“No, it’s because you have an iPhone, you douche.

“Okay, unkidding: Send me your [most recent] number. I’ll dial it. I can tell you about the time my brain cracked and the time that I wondered if it would just go on and split the rest of the way through (the fissure was dangerously close to making itself a jagged, glittering break that calls raw marble to mind) and leave me in its wake. Sometimes I self-loathingly blame this state affairs on myself and my complete finesse in/natural gifting toward matters of addiction when I was but a wee sprite. Other times I’m like,
‘SonofaBITCH, I been telling people that I’m crazy all these years and come to find out, it looks SO much different than my limited capacity for imagination.’

“Yet. I’m mostly word-stuck when it comes to describing it. And it makes me angry, because there was a definite lack of planning on my part. I mean, shit, it just doesn’t occur to one to have a contingency plan for that time when s/he takes a little foray into the cray-cray. Thing is, well, in the last few days I realize that it was merely lapping at my toes, washing into my instep a little. And thinking on that, I am just in horrified awe: ‘Imagine that you were swept into its undertow. Just dwell on that little bit of possibility for two shakes.’ Ohhh, all those people whose insides are begging for just ten exhausted minutes on the shore, and here I still have my legs under me.

“As always, I am far luckier than I have a right to be.

“About one week(ish) prior to said break: ‘This is how this week feels.’

“This week I had one perfect day. That’s a start.

“I miss you in that strange way we have of doing so, you ‘n me. I want to be sorry for my silences, but that wouldn’t make sense, because the silences are a definite part of who I need to be and I’m not so sure that I want to apologize for myself any damn more. Or maybe I’m just not old enough –not quite yet!– to be sorry for losing time. I probably never will be. I still hold to the opinion I had mostly formed up by the time I was about five or so: Regrets are really fucking stupid.”

Six seconds ago I realized that I should have appended all of that with this:

“That’s part of the reason I have three, four tops: They’re easy to keep track of and at least they’re usually polite enough to take turns riding on my shoulders.”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I don’t wanna be laid down / No I don’t wanna die knowing / That I spent so much time when I was young / Just trying to be the winner

So I wanna make it clear now / I wanna make it known / That I don’t care about any of that shit no more

// The Belle Brigade, ‘Losers’

About four weeks ago Scout decided to scare the piss out of me and her dad. Said fright was caused by her standing in front of us having a conversation one minute, then falling out and convulsing the next. When roused and sufficiently coherent, she described an electrical storm in her frontal lobe.  Tests thus far are inconclusive. Which, you know, I prefer to view as HALLELUJAH NO BRAIN TUMOR.

….but the image of an electrical storm right behind her pretty little brow has haunted me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

About a week after that, I got a call from Sam informing me that he was coming home for four days over Easter so that he could marry this Very Cute Person,

randi
:: randi, university of alabama campus, valentine’s day 2011 ::

who we will henceforth call ‘Randi’ in all our future talkstory adventures, Muffinasses. Don’t bother asking if I like her, silly; just look at her Loverboy teeshirt and her pleasant countenance! Those things should give you all the four-one-one that you need. Okay, okay….I will tell you this little bit of confessional information: One time, when Sam and Randi were both fifteen or thereabouts, I told Maxim in the quiet privacy of our bedroom, “Now that kid? I would love to have as a daughter-in-law.” She is that flavor of awesome, see? That sort of awesome that had the two of us making plans for coffee and conversation even when she and my son were no longer a couple at one (or two? ahem) point(s).

So initially the wedding plans went like this: While Sam was last home on leave, the couple made the announcement that they would marry next July. Hasty, yes? Yes, hasty. But look! Over a year to plan a wedding! Just enough time to do all this. We wish Randi would finish school! But we love her! You guys are so young and maybe wait a little longer! But who am I to speak against passion?? I would never be found guilty of such! Let’s have a wedding, shall we?

Then they said “Hey! We want to do this in December.” Okay, ah, start the New Year together in 2012! We get it! Makes some sense! Whoa, deadline, but not an unobtainable goal if we get started right now!

Then this July and my head exploded because “SAMUEL YOUR SISTER WILL BE OUT OF THE COUNTRY AND HOW DARE YOU PROPOSE A WEDDING WITHOUT HER, SHE WOULD NEVER DO THAT TO YOU AND THAT LEAVES US NO TIME TO HELP YOU PLAN, NOT TO MENTION GIVE YOU ANY SORT OF FINANCIAL HELP YOU MIGHT NEED AND WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, SAM?? I HAVE A LOT TO BE CONCERNED WITH JUST NOW, PLEASE STOP WITH THIS WEDDING IN JULY NONSENSE RIGHT THIS MINUTE.”

“Mom?” Sometimes the connection is tinny when he calls, far-away sounding. This was one of those times. “Mother, I’ve  got a four-day pass over Easter weekend. I’m going to fly in Friday morning and that afternoon Randi’s dad (ed. note: Randi’s dad is a Babdiss preacherman, but we do not hold that against her in any way) is going to marry us in her parents’ back yard.” He wore a black shirt and ivory Vans and she wore an ivory dress and black Converse and now I’m a mother-in-law, so weird.

At least I am consistent, as always, in maintaining a whirlwind life.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

So. The week before Scout fell out and two weeks before Sam made the tinny phone call, the very week that Mathias announced that he was joining Civil Air Patrol, Maxim and I had a discussion that really entailed not much discussion at all and we decided to leave our church. Rat-tat-tat. We met with our Pastor and told him on the tenth of April, my mother’s birthday.

Individually, Maxim and I had both been feeling the nudge to ask the other what they thought about our relationship to our church and whether we were to continue it. When I finally brought my thoughts up to him and told him the timeline on them, he nodded sagely and cited the exact same thoughts along the exact same period of time. We were essentially completing one another’s sentences as we spoke, and ended the discussion with the promise to pray over the issue for two weeks and then go over our impressions together.

Then the not-discussion, then the leaving, then the strange feeling of being untethered from a church body but being very anchored spiritually. We –Maxim and I, and even Scout– have even gone so far as to acknowledge that it may be in the cards for us to remain unchurched altogether. None of us is opposed to this. Jesus did a lot of damage with two feet and an unafraid voice; He never kept to four walls, at least not for very long. We’re supposed to emulate that man, if we really believe what we say we do.

We will miss our church family bitterly. We will still see them socially, sure, but not several times a week. Hell, let’s be honest: We will probably not even get to see them several times a month. Life is a storm of unpredictability and a ruiner of plans. That’s part of what makes it so incredible, you know?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

On Monday, April the eighteenth around two-thirty or so, I started to feel it. I guess it was something akin to a fissure in my brain opening, something that had been a sort of hairline crack becoming a gaping maw. I white-knuckled my way through the afternoon and then went home to gobble some Lexapro, thinking that my PMDD was rearing its head and hadn’t given me as much lead time as usual. I quickly got worse, my insides a low-roiling boil, threatening to bubble over; it made me physically sick. I could feel the lactic acid building and then depositing in my shoulders, my traps, in the backs of my thighs. It was a continual release of adrenaline and I was extremely nauseous by hour four of the whole thing. The whole of the afternoon a voice in my head gibbered about just wanting my bed, ohhhh if I can make it to the end of the workday I can have my bed,  but that evening I fumbled onto the couch and couldn’t move from there, where I fell into a fitful sleep by seven 0′clock.

I woke and dragged myself to the bedroom, still feeling sick and indeterminably broken, at around ten-thirty. The next morning I was due to drive Scout to her neurologist an hour away, and I thought that the Lexapro would grab hold while I slept (like it always did! magic! jazz hands, bitches! airhorns and goofy relieved grintastic visages and confetti or something equally as rad!), making me feel whole and right again upon waking.

I woke up lethargic and very, VERY resistant to the idea of leaving our home. In fact, I was somewhat terrified to even get out of bed. The low-boil feeling was still there and now I had a sense of defeat layered on top of it. I wanted to die, but it occurred to me that if I shot myself in the head my daughter would a) be angry that I ‘forgot’ to check her out of school b) be the one to find me c) be doubly fucked up as a result of having been angry at me just before finding my messy-headed self scattered willy-nilly across the bed. I tried to eat some breakfast. I threw it up. I showered and put on eyeliner, then comfortable clothes, then sunglasses that would obscure most of my face. It was a sheer act of my Legendary Stupidly Defiant Will that put me behind the steering wheel and on the road.

I am going to make a mistake. I am going to make a mistake and wreck us. My inner voice meant this in a more literal sense, but in writing that now I realize that there is more meaning to it. Anxiety’s theme song is I Am Going To Make A Mistake. It has a really catchy hook and gets stuck in a loop on your insides if all the conditions are right and you give it half a footing, did you know?

“I’m not feeling well,” I told Scout, “do you think you could manage driving if it turns out that I can’t?” She said she could, and I told her that I’d navigate the more difficult part of the drive and put her on the straightaway twenty minutes or so down the road. When that twenty minutes had passed, I’d started feeling better, so I passed on Scout driving for me and continued on. Ten minutes past that I was pulling into the empty lot next to an abandoned auto shop, so suddenly overcome that it was all I could do to exit the car and go around to the passenger side.

I reclined the seat, Scout slid in the new Damnwells and within a few minutes we were flying down Highway Tw0-Seventy-Eight; I was curled up on my side with my face six inches from my knees, staring at them intently, afraid that my brain was doing something I and it could never recover from, when ‘Sophia‘ came on

with a wink everything’s falling apart
and we’re lost in Lebanon

and then somehow I found my eyes fixed on the beyond out there past the vinyl and the doorhandle and the window, it rushed by oh it fell away and was replaced so fluidly and I hope I can hold onto myself well enough to finish this day, finish this day, finish. Finish it, this day.

Abel started
but Cain had to finish the job
for the God of Jealousy

No fever dream had ever been so brutal.

By four o’ clock that afternoon I became something resembling myself, but still only a poorly-remembered version of that, a slightly-staticky approximation. “It’s stress,” said Maxim the next day, and then the day after that I caught myself kneading the shit out of my left forearm with my right hand, to the point of extreme pain that I hadn’t even noticed in my absent-mindedness. It was then that I took into account that my nails were more gnawed than they ever had been –they were bleeding and painful at times– and I’d had this crazy rash on my chest that had appeared suddenly about two weeks prior. “I told you, stress,” Maxim affirmed once I recounted my realizations to him. I pondered the crevasse that had opened up in my brain, how extremely near to the base of it that the crack had run.

I circled the internal wagons. It took a week to really shake that feeling that I was just a fuzzy copy of my actual self, that I was play-acting at being something I was really not. I faked it till I maked it and I managed not to disappear. Feel free to mutter it under your breath, but don’t you ever tell me that miracles are the stuff of myth.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Wednesday, Twenty-Seven April:

The internet went out early in the day. Power was intermittent throughout the morning, but mostly there.  The mountain began to be battered. We came back from lunch, we left early for the day. Maxim happened to be off, so did Scout. My family was all snug in our home when I got there. I found out later that where others were hit once and hard, we were hit over and over hard. It was that evening before I found out that Tuscaloosa had lost one-seventh of itself and Cullman had fared poorly and the state park had played host to three twisters on the ground at once (a paramedic friend showed me a close shot he’d taken with his phone, holyHOLYfuck). A friend, upon finding out that we had no idea what was going on elsewhere, began to text snippets of information and news to me.

I called Randi, who was shaken but perfectly fine. A student at the University of Alabama, she had, she confessed, been terrified when the tornado set down a block from her apartment. She was coming home to the mountain as soon as she could. Her phone was messed up and she couldn’t make any calls or send any texts, but she could receive them. Sam, having just gone back to Texas less than twenty-four hours before, was on the other line, exceedingly not-okay with having left his bride.

Maxim showed me the snippet of radar he’d managed to pull up on his phone. “Unh, ah, there is this black area here right by us. I’ve never seen BLACK on any radar, have you?” No, no I had not, and it looked ugly, like a blotchy tumor on a rainbow landscape and wow, this is one of the rare times in life that merits one long, low whistle of disbelief punctuated with raised eyebrows. Things ramped up for us again. We stayed together, first in Mathias’ room reading and making LEGO magicks, then in the living room. When Maxim thought everything had passed, he went in search of ice and to check on his mother. He took Mathias with him.

He later professed the stupidity of leaving, because one of the events that occurred while he was out involved a massive oak falling across a pitch-black road a few feet ahead of him while he considered the merits of dropping a load in his pants. Another wave of storm had whipped itself at us and he’d been caught out in it. He crept back to his mom’s to wait it out. Back at home, Scout and I started hearing things hit the back side of the house.

“It’s still now,” I texted Maxim afterwards, “Come home, and hurry, but be safe.” My phone began dying. Maxim came home. “There is a tree in Dana’s house. It sliced clean through.” We didn’t get out to inspect, because I did not trust the dark and the clever way it might obscure dangling tree limbs with the potential to fall and crush or its ability to hide downed, soaked power lines an errant foot might find before a watchful eye could.

We made pallets for the children on our bedroom floor, set a lantern in the bathroom in case anyone had to get up later. It was dark, so dark, and I blessed this darkness, because it is a hardcore insomniac’s unspoken dream to have no glowing, buzzing streetlights slicing in from half a block away. There were no electronics humming, no tiny red lights becoming larger than life. “I AM GOING TO SLEEP LIKE A CHAMP TONIGHT!” I announced to no one in particular. We had laid our heads on our pillows and spoken a few words when one of us –I don’t even remember who, honestly– said, “Oh man, we got so lucky this time.” This was immediately punctuated with the explosive sound of a hundreds-of-years old tree a few yards away in the quick throes of giving over and going a fuck-all, messy horizontal.

I not only slept like a champ that night, I slept like a GOING-FOR-BROKE, FUNDAMENTALLY-DRIVEN, PIMP-ASS MOTHERHUMPIN’ CHAMP. But only for five and a half hours. I kept flopping around the bed after that, and then finally I got up and pulled on yoga pants and the notorious Pink Floyd shirt (that has made a-one-0r-a-two appearances within the voyeurnally tomes of yours truly) you might chance to remember. There were flip-flops involved, too. I slipped on a hoodie, leashed  up Banjo and set out. Only one other house on the whole block was occupied. Three of them had trees driven well into their innards. Others had broad, well-rooted oaks tipped over and leaving gigantic divots in the ground. Some of them had equally large trees snapped like toothpicks halfway up their trunks.

The three blocks surrounding our home were –and still are– a great mess. There are a bait of awful tales that I could run out in front of you, but I’ve already taxed your graces enough for tonight and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest for me to actively try and horrify you.  Let’s just say that I am very well aware that the most tragic thing that happened to me, basically, was having to endure an icy shower and hanging clothes on the line. Which, if you’ve been watching any of the news footage (which I have not even had time to go through in any real way) is the cosmic equivalent of stubbing my toe in the presence of legless people.

Translation: Don’t you !dare!! complain, dummy.

And so, I am not. In fact, I am going to post up, in the next little real soon day or two, things that have been so right about this place and its people since all the weathercarnage. I’ll include some ways you can help from where you are, too. Tonight my back is growing stiff and my eyelids are crackling.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This week Scouty turns eighteen. Twenty days after that, she will graduate high school.

scout, is, well.....holy crow, she's grown
:: ’she looks like an album cover,’ somebody said ::

Then it will be June and she will be exploring another country.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This summer we will be taking Mathias to our nation’s capital because he is old enough to absorb some of what this country is, what this country remembers, what it knows and also what it would like to forget. He’s inquisitive and perceptive, a fact magnet and discussion-haver.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Next weekend my son is coming home to get his bride and take her back to the desert with him. They are so young and passionate, and life is too fragile for them to be apart one second longer than they have to be. The world won’t be any less brutish, but they will each have the comfort of a bedmate’s tangled limbs and steady breathing to reassure them as they slumber. Important, too, is someone to laugh with when everything is all ludicrous as fuck and humor is the only thing left.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

It almost never fails: The day after a brutal, tornado-laden storm is picture-perfect, bright and mild and colorfully soft. This always blows my mind. Still, I am thankful for it, for the respite and I am moved to make this urgent wish:

Sonno beato, world, and all the children in it; sleep beautifully for a time.

I’m here. I’m still here. Everyone I know is accounted for. Everything is possible and I brought my spoon because I’ve always been one to dig in and that’s one trait I will fight to drag up to the grave’s lip before I have to be put in there.

 
|| January 26, 2011 || 10:19 pm || Comments (9) ||

Sometimes a lack of humility creeps up my spine only to take root at the base of my brain and flower there. In the center of these flowers are fireworks of discontent and fury which –once the flowers reach their full self–righteous bloom– launch themselves into all parts of my headmeat, screeching and sending a breathtaking volley of majestic rage-colors all the way.

Then they magically transform themselves into sense-seeking missiles (that is, ‘common sense’, the thing my mother placed so clear an emphasis on when she chiseled away at raising me against the grain of my father’s egomaniacal urgings) and obliterate all manner of things that I was taught about issues like safety and personal decorum.

I am reckless with myself in these moments. In certain instances, I fully intend to be reckless with others as well. Most times, I do not. It’s in the shadow of the latter, when my nerves have stopped snapping static and a dull sorry ache has settled into me, that I find an uneasy quiet. In the center of that imperfect peace, that suspicious truce with self, I can feel the tug that predicates a subconscious hum. I listen for what follows, because it always follows….it always has, really, but over the years I have grown worse and worse at turning a mocking sneer toward it.

My insides are insistent: ‘I was made for love, I was made for love, I was made for love; foolish, fevered and gung-ho girl:

‘Let love win.’